Festivals: Green Man Festival 2017 Review

Olivia Williams

15 years in, it’s fair to say that Green Man have pretty much perfected the art of hosting a weekend that caters for all genres, ages and styles. With their wonderful ethos of supporting and celebrating nature, family, charity and of course music, it’s an event that many of us feel is needed more than ever during these dark times, and once again, it did not disappoint as we celebrated the Green Man’s anniversary show

In a Welsh valley situated between the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons, 20,000 of us gathered for a few days of tranquillity, with loved ones young and old, an ever-changing sky and a soundtrack to die for. After Ride opened up the weekend’s festivities with a bang, Friday brought us the first bulk of delights, as Fionn Regan and Gill Landry warmed up the crowds with their own well-crafted talents, before Johnny Flynn gave us the first opportunity to get a bit of a jig on. Having refuelled on cider and delicious ales from Green Man’s famous range of boozy bars, the raw and ramshackled brilliance of The Big Moon then drew us over to the Far Out tent, where we more than happy to shelter from the on/off drizzle with the London quartet

Max Miechowski

Hurray For The Riff Raff were one of numerous US acts taking to the stage over the weekend, with many apologising for two things – not visiting Wales before, and that pesky-scamp of a President. It became a bit of a common theme, and whilst we were happy to accept their proclamations of peace, it was the music that really did the talking. Alynda Segarra’s Riff Riff delivered a truly-memorable set, whilst later in the evening, Angel Olsen proved why she has received so many accolades for her latest effort My Woman. Our Friday then ended with headliners Future Islands, another act who have been subject to a whole host of rave reviews in recent years. Frontman Samuel T Herring had plenty in his locker, as he darted about the stage, thumping his chest and throwing all manner of shapes. Yet despite his high-energy performance, it was the rest of the band that were his saving grace. Musically, Future Islands are flawless, but Herring’s live vocals are very much the Marmite of the singing-world. Ranging from mumbles to all-out barks down the mic, after 90 minutes we still couldn’t decide whether it was enjoyable or not…

Pooneh Ghana

With a heavy head and tired eyes, is there a better way of welcoming the day than with a rejuvenating juice and the Lion King in the Cinedrome? We didn’t think so! And after waking up with giggles a-plenty from the thousands of kids that are catered for with aplomb by the Green Man crew, we once again triumphantly flopped with our attempts in the annual Pop Quiz, cheekily devised by journalist Pete Paphides and Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne.

After a jaunt around Einstein’s Garden, where kids of all ages can immerse themselves in sciencey-fun, the delicate voices of Jessica Pratt on the Mountain Stage and the wonderful Aldous Harding in the Walled Garden eased us into the afternoon. Kate Stables’ glorious outfit This Is The Kit then began our evening in the sun, followed by the legend that is Shirley Collins, looking elegant as ever and having joined in with the eco-friendly glitter mania that seemed to be all over Green Man this year. Her tales of death, deception, love and loss through historic folk ballads were both enthralling and easing – a perfect act for this perfect festival.

Olivia Williams

Following Lambchop’s interesting set that included alt-country, auto-tune, and a handful of dad-jokes, up-stepped the wonderful Michael Kiwanuka. Having justly-received high-praise for last Summer’s Love & Hate, the man from Muswell Hill was clearly in high spirits, performing belter after belter as the night closed in. It was a tidy, engaging and stunning set, brought to a close with a 10-minute juggernaut performance of the title-track. After Kiwanuka’s troops had left, the stage was quickly transformed with pyramids of amps, tv sets and even a toy tiger, ready for the arrival of the one and only Ryan Adams. The legendary songwriter powered through guitar-laden numbers, proving that his vocals are still as strong as ever and busting out some glorious solos along on the way. Admittedly, his set did seem to get a bit samey by the end, but with an encore which included the mighty Come Pick Me Up, he brought a great deal of warmth to an incredibly-chilly August evening

Whilst others chose to begin their Sunday in the hot tubs of the Nature Nuture field, or preparing for the afternoon’s Little Folk Parade with their little-ones, we opted for an early afternoon spent in the Babbling Tongues tent, accompanied by masses of Billy Bragg fans for his discussion with Anita Sethi, regarding his forthcoming book ‘Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed The World’. As expected, politics became a central theme and with whoops and cheers, the talk ended with an unexpected (given that we were in Wales) yet rousing singalong of Jerusalem. Much of the crowd, including ourselves, then stuck around for an equally-entertaining interview with Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson, ahead of their sublime and storming set in the Far Out tent later that evening.

Olivia Williams

Earlier in the day, we had enjoyed a spellbinding set from the up-and-coming talent that is Holly Macve, and later that afternoon, we gathered under a stormy-looking sky for another mesmerising performance, this time from Julie Byrne, who brought her sensational new record Not Even Happiness to the Walled Garden. Blowing on her hands to keep them warm in-between tracks, Byrne was clearly pleased with the turnout and more than happy to brave the cold winds to deliver a captivating set. The aforementioned stormy sky then unfortunately broke following a triumphant Fruit Bats set, as it consistently pissed it down throughout Conor Oberst’s show, where the Bright Eyes’ frontman delivered some rousing and well-known numbers, in-between babbling on about his Dad, Trump and spitting on the stage – another classic Oberst set!

Pooneh Ghana

Fortunately, the clouds predominantly dispersed for the Sunday evening, with just a few drops and drips to justify keeping the anoraks on. But the cold was certainly banished, as The Shins provided ample opportunity to get a dance on, as they supplied one of the biggest highlights of the weekend. With tracks ranging from golden hits (Phantom Limb, New Slang, Sleeping Lessons), to new songs from James Mercer and co’s latest effort Heartworms, it was a knockout performance. Over in the Far Out tent however, Sleaford Mods laid claim to set of the weekend, as the aforementioned Williamson and beat-provider Andrew Fearn powered through bruising, damning and ferocious numbers from their back-catalogue and most recent, Post-Brexit record English Tapas. 

Pooneh Ghana

This wonderful, drizzly, fun-filled anniversary weekend then came to a close with the mighty force of PJ Harvey. Accompanied by her merry band of nine, spooky-looking blokes, the two-time Mercury Prize winner romped through a rousing set of socio-political tales, soundtracked by a blend of avant-garde, punk and sax-blasting compositions. It was another glorious headline set, whose fiery-end was then encapsulated by the annual burning of the Green Man – this year chaperoned by a mighty Welsh red dragon, which flamed from its mouth before blasts of festival-closing fireworks swirled into the stormy skies. A fine end to another stunning weekend at our favourite festival. Here’s to another 15 years…at least!

Dom Kay